The Queen of Kerala Backwaters

Recently my friends and I visited a place where houseboats were being made. The owner of the business started way back in 1986 and the business is flourishing very well. The interior of the houseboats was so intricate. From the living area to the kitchen to the washroom to the living room, everything about her looked so serene.

A Basic House Boat on the Ashtamudi Backwaters in KollamThis is a basic house boat with two bedrooms and a kitchen and living room floating on the Ashtamudi Backwaters in Kollam district of Kerala.

The houseboat that we visited, had only two bedrooms and of course a kitchen and a living room. But the people there, claim to have built houseboats with eleven storeys or so. The eleven stories were divided into ten bedrooms and a kitchen on the ground level (as in the first level) and  one bedroom and a huge living room on the top. When the guide first said that the living room was on the top of the boat, personally I felt a little weird, because we usually have living rooms in the ground level, in our houses. But then one trip to the top floor removed all my doubts as to why the living room was being designed in the top instead of the bottom-most floor as is the case of ordinary houses. The view from the top of the living room is exotic. A part of it is even open with no foliage. You need not use your imagining capacity too much to guess how beautiful and calm a place like backwaters of Kerala would be. The scenery is picturesque , with the horizon showing only three things – coconut trees ,coconut trees and coconut trees.

As you must be knowing , Kerala is famous for the abundant number of coconut trees that grow here. It also provides a good range of employment opportunities to many along with providing .

OK, now coming back to house boats , the makers of the boat have made sure that even the most minute of details, like the door and the bolt on the door and several other places have been taken care of and though they have tried to give the boats a posh look (like in the case of wash rooms which are styled in the European manner) keeping in mind, the taste of the tourists who come here, who are mostly foreigners, they have not forgotten to give it an authentic look, an ancient look. Like I mentioned earlier, the doors of bedrooms are not of the modern type. They have been designed to be a replica of how the door locks were, in olden days, in Kerala. You can still see locks like that in palaces in Kerala. They are famously known as ‘Manichitra poottu’ where ‘poottu’ means lock.

For the benefit of those who do not know what a Manichitra pootu is, the above is a picture of the Manichitra lock as seen in the boat.

The roofs have been made with great care and hard work so that they are not porous and non-porous roofs are a must in Kerala even in the houses considering the plentiful quantity of rains that this small state receives. They have first covered it with P V C sheets and then beneath the sheets they have placed a layer of coconut leaf blades. This layer is thin and is capable of falling down , if proper support is not provided. Thus to prevent this layer from falling they have also placed a layer of thick bamboo sticks crisscrossing each other and tied up with rope. They say they did not stop with just the P V C sheet so that it would keep the interior of the boat, cool. Also the more the number of layers on the roof, the more is the roof non-porous. The walls have also been built with the blades of coconut leaves.

The roof of the House Boat

The staircase leading the way up , is spiral and one has to be very careful while climbing these because they have railing only one side. All the furniture inside the boat is carved out of Banyan wood – everything including the stairs, doors, windows, etc.. The boat is itself made of Banyan wood.

The spiral staircase leading upwards to the living room

The washroom has been designed European as I mentioned earlier. The water that is used is recycled using special cleansing tablets that kill germs and remove them from water thereby making the water safe for future use. Thus, due to this process recycling only very little amount of water gets accumulated as waste even over a long period of time. I think this is a great idea to reduce the waste water.Besides it also conserves water by treating and using the same water.

The experience was absolutely wonderful. But what amazes me the most is that the people have not graduated in engineering, but still know all the concepts related to engineering, in building a boat so that it does moves smoothly in water and not only do they know concepts but also know how to apply  them. Moral of the day : You need not be a know-it-all to succeed in life. All you need to have is a little amount of common sense and creativity along. Instead of just following the bandwagon, think independently and have little bit of courage to take risk. This can definitely take you to great heights.

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